Friday, December 26, 2008

Whiteout Christmas

It sure was nice spending Christmas with my family this year. I enjoyed the Christmases spent in Massachusetts, but there's nothing like being home for the Holidays. I appreciate that more now.

Christmas Eve was uplifting and peaceful. There were only four of us, and we had the traditional Cornish Game Hen dinner and then read some scriptures about the Savior's birth. It was a good reminder of what we were celebrating before the Holiday began.

Christmas Day was simple, and chaotic with a full house. We ate lots of food, opened presents, and played with toys in good company. The most popular toy was our new Wii, which quickly found a home in our family room. To our great satisfaction, everyone played and enjoyed it, except for those on the extreme ends of the age spectrum. The little ones were content to stand in the path of wildly-swinging remotes, and the older ones didn't come down to see.

My gifts were designed to help me prepare for life away from home again. I received a slow-cooker, a food chopper, plastic containers, and a vegetable steamer. The steamer doubles as a toy, because when it's closed up it makes a convincing UFO. Fortunately I enjoy cooking. Or more accurately, I enjoy eating and I'm willing to cook the food to eat.

I also received an Amazon.com gift card, which I plan on using to buy some Brazilian cds. :D

Tomorrow we are leaving for the mountains, to spend the weekend snowmobiling at a cabin. With all of this snow, however, simply getting up there could be a real challenge. I hope everything works out.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Quem canta seus males espanta.

It's always amazing to me how much of a positive impact good music can have on a person or an ambient. When I came home tonight I was very tired and was planning on going to bed early (it's obvious that that didn't happen). When I saw my family in the family room, however - stressed, down, troubled -I felt that we should sing some Christmas songs together. I asked one of my sisters to play "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," while I sang with another sister. 45 minutes later, we had sung all of the Christmas songs in the LDS hymnbook, as well as the New Year's songs and various lesser-known hymns.

That's a lot of singing. Quite a lot for a family that almost never sings together. But the effect that it had on everyone was clear. While the issues at hand still remained, everyone had a brighter countenance and seemed genuinely happy. It was as if for a moment, we transcended above the mires of the world to a type of paradise, where our hearts were lightened and prepared to face adversity with hope and understanding.

We are not the best singers, but we did our best, and that's what counted. Surely the sincerity of the heart is not measured by the pitch of one's voice, or the ability to nail the absurdly high notes in "Joy to the World."

I think I'm ready to go watch Mr. Krueger's Christmas. Maybe even It's a Wonderful Life. And perhaps Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Well, that last one could wait until Patriot's day or the Fourth of July.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Agar Mans

When I was 14 I thought drums were "wicked awesome." In fact, I liked them so much that I included "drummer" in my e-mail address. Now, eight years later, I have the same e-mail address because I can't settle on anything else.

My father helped me come up with some ideas tonight, most of which were chosen out of a log-cabin magazine. After he saw that I wasn't going for "woodmaster" or "woodburningstove," he tried some other sources. His best idea was to use an anagram generator, into which I entered my name. Here are some of the results for "Michael Wood."
A Melodic Who
A Chowed Limo
Achoo Mildew (a description of work in conservation)
Ciao, Lewd Ohm (we're switching electric companies)
Ideal Cow Ohm (our new electric company)
Each Wild Moo (Great cheese comes from wild cows, and wild cows come from San Francisco)
Dim Whale Coo (unrelated to the intense whale coo, which is commonly heard by 12-year-old David Archuleta fans)
Ow Docile Ham ("Martha, this ham is absolutely... docile!")
And these include my middle name:
Mad Loco Wheelie
Dam Cool Wheelie
Old Coma Wheelie


Infinitely more interesting than my name, however, is that of our president-elect.
Maraca Kabob

Even our current president has a fitting anagram!
Bugger Hose

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mathematical beauty? Nonsense.

1 O that I were an robot, and could have the wish of mine mechanical innards, that I might go forth and compute with the abacus of God, with a function to shake the earth, and cry proofs unto every people!
2 Yea, I would lecture unto every soul, as with the voice of Steven Hawking, algebra and the quadratic formula, that they should derive and come to a solution, that there might not be more mathematical errors upon all the face of the earth.
3 But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.

Sometimes I feel like a robot. Not because I derive functions, but because life gets busy and days turn into checklists of tasks to accomplish. Sleep is not on the list.

It's good to be busy, though. My life is lining up in a way that I could not have imagined. All I have to do is hold on until January. "..almost there, stay on target.. staaay on target...."

*KABOOM!*


Just kidding. I'm the star, not the unfortunate side-character.

food for thought

Today in the cafeteria I was struck with a profound realization:

"Out of the 3,000 people who work here, I am, quite possibly, the only one eating acorn squash for lunch."

It was delicious.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

An attempt to make sense out of an incomplete story.

This weekend I finished reading The Castle, by Franz Kafka. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the book was never finished because of Kafka's death in 1920. It literally ends in the middle of a sentence.

Did I like it? Well, that's hard to say. I don't think the book was meant to be enjoyed. Kafka was a Czech in the early 20th century who wrote about the dark themes around him. Bureaucracy and abuse of power make are the most obvious themes of the story, and reading about it for hundreds of pages can become downright frustrating!

Acquiring a disgust for the same and seeing it in a new light was a worthwhile result, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that it was enjoyable. I echo the words of another reader:

I would read it for a while, often with the mental chuckle of K.'s fight with bureaucracy. But when a story is being told by one of the village residents, it can drag. I couldn't Not read the book, but I couldn't continually read it, either. I stopped a couple times to read something else, then returned and persevered. Overall I liked the novel, but felt it was a chore to read it at times. This is not one of those books for lounging on the beach. I bet it would be most appreciated if read in a classroom setting or some other group where someone knowledgeable can help shed light when the storyline gets too confusing. Yet it's a recommended read for a wandering, realistic feeling window into the life of a government.


He specifically mentions that the story drags when told by one of the village residents. This is an understatement. Monologues with minimal punctuation are common and often go on for several chapters. During one monologue, the protagonist falls asleep while listening to the speaker ramble for two hours. I fell asleep with him.

I'm glad I read it, but it's strange. I'm not sure how I feel about it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My contrubution to the economy. Sorry America, it's from Japan.

I made an offer on this car today. It's a 1997 Acura Integra. Manual transmission, sunroof, cd player, and a cracked windshield. It will be my first automobile purchase!

This isn't a picture of the car I'm buying, but it's the same model and color. Do you like it?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Deep inside the stacks of Michael's archives...

I unearthed some strange gems tonight as I continued to run through my cd collection. Instead of music, I found some data disks with home-made videos, A sonata that I wrote, ddr stepfiles, and this picture:


Your guess is as good as mine.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Moving Melodies and Ambitious Anchors

Christmas music is so fun and uplifting. Last night I went to a local benefit concert featuring Marshall McDonald, Steven Sharp Nelson, my old high school's choir, and a Utah youth string orchestra. It was fun seeing "Brother McDonald," one of my former seminary teachers, on stage performing. He played very well, though he moved so swayed so much that I was surprised that he didn't fall off the edge of the bench.

The hostess of the event was a local anchorwoman, and when she began to speak I realized that news anchors voices aren't meant for large public settings without video clips. She seamlessly slipped into anchor mode as she rattled of statistics from the Utah Food Bank. "There are X# families in need right now.. Blah Blah Blah..." Oh look, there are oranges on that Christmas tree over there!

The most (and unintentionally) comedic part of the concert was listening to this anchor narrate the tear-jerking orphan story, "Christmas Oranges." Her breaking-news voice kicked in as she told about the flu epidemic raging throughout the town of the story:
"Many people, both young and old, became sick with the flu.
Many people, both young and old,

* dramatic pause *

...died."

I did have a tingly feeling at the story's resolution, however. Oh, and I loved the name of the orphanage - "Irongates."

And the music really was fantastic.

***

Now, quite different from the peaceful Christmas melodies of last night, I'm listening to my old music collection and throwing out the junky stuff. The first victim was a punk rock cd that I never listened to completely. The reason for that was soon made obvious. I threw it away with its five power chords, monotone vocals and unchanging drum pattern.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Michael made a pretty thing.


I Photoshopped and framed this picture, and I'm quite pleased with the result. It will be available tonight at the Sub-4-Santa auction!









I also printed a picture of a sunflower, but I haven't found a frame for it yet.



The pictures are 5 x 7's.

Michael is tired of lame, sucky negativity

Life is too toilsome and disheartening by itself, so I'm not going to contribute to its cheerless inclinations. I counterattack by annihilating these phrases:

"I hate"
"I suck at"
"___ sucks"
"I'm tired"
"I don't want to (insert verb)"
"No one can love me like Edward"
"The Dow dropped (insert amount) points today"
"That's (*insert negative word)"

*possibilities include but are not limited to lame, stupid, boring, sucky, dumb, and gay.


Negativity has so penetrated our language that simply substituting one of these words with an antonym does not invert its meaning!

"This movie sucks."
"This movie blows."

Together, however, they can make a compelling advertisement.

"My industrial vacuum sucks and blows!"


+10 points for whoever joins me in my quest for ANTS: Annihilation of all Negative ThingS. Maybe we can make hats and watch Mr. Krueger's Christmas and play with kittens. That would be so un-negative.

Positive, I mean.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Michael experienced the life of a soccer mom. Does that mean I can be vp?

I'm back! The trip to Vegas was enjoyable, but definitely not what I had expected. I was more of a family assistant than a tourist.

Things started off rough when my father came down with a nasty cold. He was able to drive for much of the trip to Vegas, but once we reached the hotel, he stayed in the room, miserable, for the rest of the weekend. I washed my hands more than ever before during these past four days.

With my father sick in bed, my mother needed my help navigating the foreign highways of sin city. I drove to soccer games, restaurants, and even to the home of her old college roommate who she hadn't seen for 18 years. I didn't get to do the original activities I had planned, but it was nice to just get out and relax and be of help. Watching the soccer games wasn't too bad either.

After a long drive through the desert and battling through post-Thanksgiving traffic, I'm back home and ready to tackle the challenges of the next month. There's much to do before the year ends.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Michael is going back to school.

It's super early and I need to sleep, but I wanted to share the news before we leave for Las Vegas. Tonight we had our Thanksgiving dinner and birthday celebration for my father, and after everyone left, I went upstairs and checked my e-mail. There was a message from BYU, informing me that I've been accepted for the 2009 winter semester.

Fantastic!

I'm happy that I got back into BYU, though I can't deny that I have mixed feelings. I've been home for two months now, and in that time I've established a comfortable life in Salt Lake. I have a job, I've made new friends - I even considered transferring to a school here if BYU didn't work out.

I suppose I'm being over-dramatic about this, it's not like Provo is very far away, but with the prospect of change always comes a sorrow for the past. I'm sure it will be the best for me, but I can't help but feel sad about leaving the life I have enjoyed so much.


I already registered for classes. I was very lucky/blessed - I was able to organize a decent schedule despite having registered so late. Now I have to find an apartment, buy a car, prepare to move, learn how to tune pianos... all in the next month.

Having a direction to take with definite goals is exciting!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Michael Just Wants to Dance.

I am not a dancer. The extent of my dance background is Dance Dance Revolution, which is more violent than graceful(at least when I play). Tonight, however, I went far beyond that and learned some basic swing and salsa steps. Sorry nerds, but it was way more fun than arrow-smashing.

Being able to do those basic moves, no matter how ugly it looked, was satisfying and great fun! It was also nice to dance with a partner, instead of clutching a sweaty, metal bar.

I was still feeling the groove when I got home, so I pulled my mother away from the Thanksgiving turkey and we danced in the kitchen. No sooner did I take her hand than the groove seized her and she recalled the dance steps from a distant college memory. We danced for a few minutes and then, slightly embarrassed, she broke away by suggesting that I teach my younger sister. My sister didn't jump at the offer.

I enjoy dance and would like to learn (and see) more.


And I still love ddr.

Physics and Michael's Childhood.

This evening while participating in a conversation about physics(don't think this is normal), my thoughts drifted to my childhood and my first hands-on experience with Newton's first law of motion.

One fine summer before the Fourth of July, my family and my cousins went camping near Provo before seeing a large fireworks show. Our camping site was located at the bottom of a large, sandy hill spotted with rocks and sagebrush. It beckoned us like the ice cream man, and we were at the top within 30 seconds.

All was fun and games until our parents called us down. I remember wanting to beat everyone down the hill, and unfortunately, I did. I moved one foot, the other.. faster. Faster! Oh no! No brakes!

My run turned into a roll, and I tumbled down the steep hill and landed in a well-placed sagebrush. I think someone took pity on my poor, ignorant self - I managed to avoid every rock and landed in the only sagebrush within a 20' radius.


So, remember kids, "A body continues to maintain its state of rest or of uniform motion unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force!"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Michael is getting reacquainted with childhood enemy.

Last week I attended my younger sister's piano recital, and after being impressed, decided to start practicing again. I dug up the old Alfred piano methods and began playing "Goodbye, Old Paint."

It's a long road to glory. At least I have more patience now than when I was ten.



In the meantime, before my imminent rise to musical stardom, my father is going to teach me how to tune pianos. It's a skill he learned from his father, and has been a nice source of extra money. If all goes well, it will provide me with enough to stay afloat during school.

Mike is an odd size.

I spent almost two hours shopping for jeans yesterday and didn't find what I wanted. Instead, I bought a bottle of cranberry juice and Thoreau's Walden. Maybe I'll find my size at a reasonable price next week, in Las Vegas.

Oh yeah, I'm going to Las Vegas to celebrate Thanksgiving! Can you think of a better place to count your blessings and spend quality time with family? The truth is that although we will spend the holiday there, the real reason for our trip is my younger sister's soccer tournament. It should be a memorable Thanksgiving. It certainly is different from what I'm used to.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Patrick: no mike, no!
it's not christmas time yet!!

Michael catches the Christmas virus.

I began listening to Christmas music today. I kicked it off with Sufjan Steven's Songs for Christmas, which I highly recommend. It's a nice break from the traditional holiday music you hear on a soft rock station. It even comes with an animated short, which you can see here!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mike breaks down barriers.

Some people say that Haikus are supposed to be about nature or birds, but I think that that's silly. I'll show how they relate to science.

PHYSICS

Three birds flew overhead
One fell and I measured its
acceleration.

BIOLOGY

This bird holds secrets
I'll solve them with my scalpel
Because it can't talk.

CHEMISTRY

This bird was poisoned
Inside it I found traces
of Alka-Seltzer.

Normal

Mankind is evil
It takes birds from the sky. ..but
we shall fly again.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Michael likes squares. And squirrels.

My Brazilian friend is no longer at the Church Office Building, so I have to find other ways to keep busy during lunch.

Today I discovered that the wax paper by the pastries in the cafeteria comes in perfect squares. I couldn't resist the urge to grab a sheet and fold a squirrel. I was pleased with the result.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Michael creates because

I heard some quotations from President Uchtdorf this morning that I really enjoyed. Here are some excerpts:

"The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.

Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.

You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us. The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.

What you create doesn’t have to be perfect. So what if the eggs are greasy or the toast is burned? Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.

If you still feel incapable of creating, start small. Try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it."


His words struck me because they sum up an idea that's been stewing in my brain for quite some time. While I was in Massachusetts my actions and thoughts began to change. Instead of seeking easy, idle activities during free time (which was little), I actively sought things to create (though this word hadn't yet come to mind). I created a clean apartment, a nice meal, a healthier body. I sought to improve existing relationships and create new ones. I took many pictures and shared them with friends and family. I recorded experiences and feelings in a journal.

At the time, I was completely incapable of describing my pursuit or what drove me to do such things. The only word that came to mind was "beauty," but for obvious reasons I wasn't about to prance around the neighborhood proclaiming my discovery of a beautiful life. (People already think I'm strange enough!)


And so with a childish smile, I kept my feelings to myself, only sharing with my closest friends.


Then I returned to Utah. I was afraid of losing the happy life that I had developed and enjoyed during the past two years, but those fears soon dissipated with the continuation of a creative and helpful lifestyle. In fact, my life was really enhanced with the opening of new possibilities. No longer bound by mission rules, I could branch into previously unavailable pursuits, though taking care not to compromise the standards on which happiness is founded.


I live happily, and today I understand that much of this comes from a pursuit to create. I work full-time, sleep, eat, and do other routine things that take up most of the day, but it's the little things that are making a difference. Walking the dog, cooking a meal, calling a friend, reading a book, telling mother how much you love her...

Isn't life peachy?

Michael refuses to eat ramen.

Did I mention that I like to cook? Here are some recipes that I made recently:

Spaghetti Squash Lasanga

Alternative Baked Salmon
Zucchini Parmesan

All of these recipes came from allrecipes.com, a great site for... all recipes!

I also made some Brazilian food that I learned to cook in MA, and my family was pleasantly surprised. They didn't know rice and beans could taste so good!

Short and sweet

I worked out, ate garbage hash, went to an art show, put up Christmas lights, folded an origami manatee, and went to a party. Long live Saturdays.